Responding to speculation that lingering tensions remain between he and quarterback Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that his relationship with the second-year pro is as good as it ever has been. Shanahan also defended himself against reports that mistrust had arisen by Griffin’s belief that his coaches misused him as he nursed a balky knee in last January’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Griffin on Wednesday said that he had confidence in the Redskins’ coaching staff and said that he, Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan all share the same goal: winning.
Kyle Shanahan dismissed the notion that there are problems between he and his quarterback.
“Mine and Robert’s relationship is the same it’s always been,” he said on Thursday. “Just like you said, outside perception thinks that. I understand how this business works and I understand when you’re not doing well, when you have only three wins, people are going to pick at stuff. And I get that. But, what I’ve learned since I’ve been here is to make sure I don’t make perception become my reality. I come to work just like I always have and work with Robert just like did every day last year.
“And everyone’s having a hard time because we’re not winning games. We need to figure out a way to win games, and when you don’t win games, people are going to say ‘This is why,’ or ‘That’s why’ and I’ve learned that comes with the territory. The only thing I can really do about it is, because it’s someone else’s perception, not make that my reality. I know what happens in here. I know what my relationship with Robert is, and we go to work every day. We’re competitive people but we work together. When he does good, I feel I do good. When he does bad, I feel I have responsibility in that. I feel we have to keep doing better for each other this year.”
When asked if he thought that Griffin had trust in him, Shanahan said, “Yeah, I would hope so. I think we’ve done some pretty good things together.”
Shanahan added, “I really never talk to any media too much about my relationships with players. I’m the coach. I do my best to prepare them to be successful. I try my hardest. My philosophy is, I like being people’s friends. It makes you feel better. It makes it more fun. I know how I’d want to be as a player. The coaches I liked the most and the coaches I respect the most were the coaches that helped me, were the coaches that felt kept it real with me and helped me be better. And that’s what I try to do for everybody I coach. I don’t just try to be their friend and be their buddy. I try to keep it real with them, tell them what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and hope they can use me as an asset and someone that can help them and help their career. Usually when people are like that, they respect you for it.
“The main thing is respect,” he concluded. “You want somebody to respect you and the way people respect you. The way people respect you is they think you know what you’re doing, they think you work hard, they think you’re a good coach, and that’s all I want from players: the respect, and I think I’ve earned it in my career.”
Griffin has alluded to problems with the play-calling during the Seattle game, but he said earlier in the offseason that “all parties involved” understood their role in the circumstances that led to his injury, which required surgery to repair.
But as he and Mike Shanahan have previously stated, the offensive coordinator maintained that the team only played Griffin because he and doctors assured coaches that he was healthy enough to play.
Shanahan still believes that he did as good a job as possible of protecting Griffin with his play-calling and that he didn’t intentionally subject him to unnecessary risk.
“I think I did good. When you run the read-option, especially in the Dallas game, where he doesn’t get a hit on him, you pull it when you’re not accounted for and you go to the sidelines for a 10-yard gain and no one gets a hit on him, I feel pretty good about it,” Shanahan said. “Now, if he was getting killed on it when we were getting quarterback runs when he was unaccounted for and people were hitting on him, then yeah, I’d feel pretty bad about that. We’re just asking him to run to the sidelines when he’s unaccounted for. If somebody tells me they’re healthy, and also doctors tell me somebody’s healthy and good enough to go, then I don’t sit there and go against what somebody is telling me. I’m going to believe what I see and that’s why the times he got hurt were actually on pass plays — never on the zone-read. But, I would hope that’s common knowledge by now. People seem to forget.”
Shanahan said that he continued to keep Griffin’s safety and capabilities in mind the following week against Seattle and that he continued to receive assurances that the quarterback was able to play.
Griffin in that game looked to be at his worst in the fourth quarter, when on a first-and-10 run from the Redskins’ 22-yard line, the quarterback faked the handoff to Alfred Morris and then hobbled nine yards around the left end before going out of bounds. Then, later in the quarter, Griffin took the snap and gimpily rolled to his right on a bootleg and looked for a receiver downfield. He had to pull the ball back down and then tried in vain to avoid linebacker Bruce Irvin, who sacked him for a 12-yard loss. One play later, Griffin’s knee gave out as he scrambled for the ball on a low snap.
Even up until that point, Kyle Shanahan said he believed in Griffin and his ability to execute the offense.
“When you have trust in a player, and they say they’re fine — a lot of guys might say that — and then you go to the doctors,” he said. “But if a player told me they can’t do that, I would never do it. … I know what play people are talking about. With the play, I called one keeper that got him out of the pocket and it’s definitely a play I asked about before I called it. I drew it up on the sideline and said, ‘Do you think we are capable of this, and I was told yes, so I ran the play.”
Shanahan acknowledged that Griffin has struggled in this second NFL season, but he maintains that the quarterback is healthy and capable of playing at a high level. Some fans and analysts have suggested that the Redskins should see what they have in Kirk Cousins now that they are eliminated from playoff contention. But Shanahan — echoing his father’s sentiments — said that’s unnecessary. He took the opportunity once again to reaffirm confidence in Griffin and his potential as well.
“I think we have two quarterbacks who are very good quarterbacks. But there’s no question in my mind that Robert is our quarterback,” Shanahan said. “So, when it comes to what could we be doing with Kirk, that doesn’t enter my mind. Robert is a franchise quarterback. He’s a great quarterback and he’s going to have a hell of a career here and I love coaching him. It’s been fun.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.
● The Redskins practice Friday at 11:50 a.m.
More from The Post: